Apartment building of Kamila and Rudolf Kohn

Riegrova 208/5 (Plzeň) Plzeň Vnitřní Město
Public transport: Sady Pětatřicátníků (TRAM 1, 2, 4)
Náměstí Republiky (TRAM 1, 2)
Náměstí Republiky (BUS 20, 33, 40)
GPS: 49.7472778N, 13.3757664E

The Jewish merchant Rudolf Kohn and his wife Kamila were the owners of an apartment house in Riegrova Street built in 1930 according to plans drawn by the architect Vilém Beer. Before the house could be erected, however, the investors had to embark on a prolonged struggle over demolition of the existing building on the site, a valuable burgher’s house with a Renaissance gable. Rudolf Kohn had already attempted to get permission for the demolition in 1928, but his application was rejected. A committee with the title Discussion of the Way in which Heritage Buildings in Pilsen Should Be Preserved even met in October of that year to deal with the matter. The members of the committee were prominent figures from the ranks of historians and conservationists as well as architects and builders, among them Václav Wágner, Ladislav Lábek, Bohumil Chvojka, Josef Skupa and Václav Pašek. Ironically, another of the members of the committee was the builder Karel Krůta, who was later to build the new house for the Kohns. Despite the dissent of the committee, the demolition of the historic house was permitted in January 1929 and planning permission for the new house was issued in March of the same year, although the construction work was not launched until early 1930.

The architect Vilém Beer reserved the ground floor of the new building for the family cloth business. Apart from the shop itself and offices, there was also an entrance lobby and a hallway with a staircase leading to the upper floors. The basement served as storage space for the business, which flourished so well that a fabric testing workshop was added in the courtyard in 1936. The three floors above were designed uniformly; each held one large flat with five rooms, a kitchen with two pantries, a bathroom, toilet and maid’s room that had only a window opening into the ventilation shaft. In the loft space was a smaller two-room flat with a kitchen, pantry and bathroom, together with a laundry room, boiler room and attic space, which was later converted into four flats. The flat roof would apparently have provoked controversy in the historic city centre, so the front of the loft level was faced with a slightly sloping wall resembling a mansard roof.

The residential building, rising considerably above both neighbouring houses, stands out due to its symmetrical main facade, which creates an impression that is exceptionally cultivated, harmonious and simultaneously, in the context of the heterogeneous surrounding historical buildings, unmistakably contemporary. At the design stage, Beer had already defined the basic appearance of the facade, the main greenish ochre part of which is divided by five semicircular pilasters indicating the tectonics of the building, but he later modified the arrangement of windows and the design of the parterre. The originally planned three-light windows were replaced with distinctive double-leaf windows divided horizontally into four panes each and surmounted by a narrow fanlight. The relatively simply conceived parterre was punctuated with a pair of atypical entrance doors and a large display window and was clad in artificial stone. The simple, yet effective door and window frames with rounded corners (typical of the Art Deco style) were made of burnished metal. A certain disproportion of the openings is justified by the fact that the prominent shop sign of the owner with the inscription ‘Rudolf Kohn’ had originally been set above them. The upper section of the building is dominated by a greatly protruding cornice, partially concealing the mass of the uppermost floor.

Although the house does not draw any great notice to itself in the street frontage, it is certainly worthy of attention, both for its architectural qualities combining Classicist and Modernist forms with elements of Art Deco, and for the authentic appearance of its exterior.



Kamila and Rudolf Kohn


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